Better coordination of workforce and skills planning
RWPs re-affirm the need for a joined-up approach to regional labour market planning
Multiple RWPs acknowledge and reinforce the importance of more cohesive and coordinated insights, planning and decision making in the regions. RSLGs, through their RWPs, highlight a concern that there are numerous initiatives being delivered regionally that are not always coordinated and that there is a need to address this at central government agency level. While RWPs acknowledge the value of each individual initiative, the number of initiatives increases the complexity of RSLGs’ coordination role.
RWPs suggest that more deliberate coordination at a national level is likely to make planning at a regional level less complicated. While one purpose of RoVE and the EET system is to address coordination challenges, central government agencies recognise this system is still maturing and evolving, and more can be done to support RSLGs to navigate this.
Some RWPs make explicit connections to other agency initiatives relating to workforce and skills development, such as Employment Action Plans (EAPs) or Industry Transformation Plans (ITPs). Initiatives with a nationwide focus on sector skills development or employment of priority population groups intersect with each RWP differently, depending on the region’s sector and population priorities. Throughout the RWPs is a desire to make connections and coordinate initiatives to avoid duplication, identify gaps and harness opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.
This aligns with the broader Government focus on system-wide cohesion
Effective workforce and skills planning is vital for achieving the Government’s priority of a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy. Workforce and skills planning is shaped by government reforms in the education, immigration and employment systems. For example, RoVE is designed to bring a stronger focus on delivering the skills that learners and employers need. The reforms will bring together industry and educators to make sure New Zealand’s workforce is fit for today and the future. One of the aims of the Immigration Rebalance is to encourage businesses to train and upskill less-experienced New Zealanders into roles, to offer competitive wages, and to work together as a sector to showcase employment opportunities and career pathways for New Zealanders rather than relying on migrant labour.
In addition to RoVE, the EET agency system aims to support a cohesive and aligned employment, education and training system that delivers for all who need support. Within this EET system, a broad suite of workforce planning initiatives to coordinate labour market planning and improve employment outcomes for all New Zealanders is discussed regularly at a ministerial, agency chief executive and working group level. 3 overarching strategies set the direction for EET policies and their delivery: the Economic Plan, the Employment Strategy and the Māori Economic Resilience Plan. These strategies are in turn underpinned by key Government objectives, such as ensuring economic security, investment in the future (including a resilient, skilled and productive workforce), and supporting Māori and Pacific aspirations.
Work is underway by agencies to improve coordination
There are several major work programmes underway across EET, and in other areas, that help to improve the coordination of workforce and skills planning. Beyond RSLG establishment, some of these include:
- the Employment Strategy and EAPs to improve labour market outcomes for groups that are disadvantaged in the labour market
- the Employment and Social Outcome Investment Strategy
- ITPs to drive long-term change in 8 key sectors
- the establishment of the 6 WDCs to work with industries to develop and maintain a strategic view of the skills industries required now and in the future.
Given the relatively recent introduction of these initiatives, it will take time before their long-term outcomes are visible.
Government Employment Strategy
The Employment Strategy addresses the need for more coordinated workforce and skills planning by providing an overarching framework for labour market priorities. The strategy helps to guide central government agency work across the EET system by articulating a clear set of priorities for the labour market and providing guidance across a variety of Government work programmes that aim to improve labour market outcomes for New Zealanders. The Employment Strategy is supported by 7 EAPs that focus on improving outcomes for groups that consistently experience poor employment outcomes.
Collaboration between Workforce Development Councils and RSLGs
The 6 WDCs (Waihanga Ara Rau, Toi Mai, Toitū te Waiora, Hanga-Aro-Rau, Muka Tangata, and Ringa Hora) play a vital role in workforce and skills planning. Several RSLG members are also on WDC councils. The role of the WDCs is to ensure the vocational education system meets industry needs, including giving a stronger voice to Māori business and iwi/hapū development. WDCs set skills standards, develop sub-degree qualifications and help shape the delivery of vocational education.
WDCs and RSLGs both produced their inaugural national and regional workforce development plans (respectively) in mid-2022. The timing of their release meant RWPs were largely drafted before WDC Workforce Development Plans (WDPs). There is broad alignment between the priorities in the plans, but there is also opportunity for greater coordination in plan development in future years (see below).
Productive, resilient, inclusive, sustainable and Māori-enabling (PRISM) regions as supported through the Regional Strategic Partnership Fund
Kānoa, MBIE’s Regional Development and Investment Unit, administers the Regional Strategic Partnership Fund (RSPF), which is a $200 million fund to help grow regional economies. Regional Economic Development (RED) Partnerships, made up of local iwi Māori, businesses, economic development agencies and other relevant parties use the PRISM Regional Economies Framework to build on their economic development strengths and address their challenges. The iwi partnership arrangements, within RED Partnerships and RSLGs, incorporate Te Ōhanga Māori (Māori economic) perspectives about what will unlock Māori potential.
Given the connection between regional economic development and labour market and skills planning, MBIE has created a mechanism to ensure RSPF applications include consideration of regional workforce and skills priorities (see below). This supports the joined-up approach to workforce and skills planning within the regions.
Regional Strategic Partnership Fund(external link) — Grow Regions
Central government agencies have identified opportunities to collaborate with RSLGs to support better coordination
- RSLG members bring rich and diverse connections to their regions and expertise on regional and sector workforce and skills. Central government agencies will continue to seek to engage with RSLG members in the regions, including through regional officials’ groups facilitated by the MBIE-secretariat that are designed to support RWP information sharing and increase in-region coordination.
- MBIE is working centrally with WDCs and Te Pūkenga to establish processes for RSLGs, Te Pūkenga and WDCs to engage regularly and harness each other’s influence to shape regional solutions (acknowledging that some RSLGs are already doing this at a regional level). This includes consideration of how RSLGs and WDCs can best share resources and information to guide skills development at a variety of levels.
- Regional Public Service Commissioners (RPSC) strengthen regional system leadership by working to coordinate and align central government decision makers. Leveraging the mandate of each group’s RPSC member provides an additional avenue for approaching regional challenges and opportunities with central government agencies.
- Within MBIE, the RSLG secretariat and Kānoa have recently agreed a new process to ensure RSLGs are given the opportunity to support and/or comment on proposals for RSPF funding in their region. The process will establish a framework for consulting RSLGs to ensure regional economic investment considers RWP workforce and skills development priorities, while maintaining the commercial confidentiality of applications.
- Consultation on changes to policy settings are an opportunity for RSLGs to provide valuable regional insight. RSLG advice on the likely regional impact of policy settings or unintended consequences of proposed changes is particularly helpful. We recognise that many RSLG members have participated in a range of consultations, ranging from Māori employment to youth employment, and immigration settings, to share valuable regional insights. MBIE will continue to look at drawing on RSLG expertise – for example, when reviewing the immigration Green List in 2023, noting that the Green List provides national coverage.